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More Training Info > ACSM and AHA Recommendations

Updated ACSM and AHA Healthy Adult Recommendations 2007
By Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS September 2007

New Recommendations

The American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association have just issued updated physical activity and public health recommendations for adults aged 18-65. A summary is as follows:

“All healthy adults aged 18-65 need moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 30 minutes per session on 5 or more days per week OR vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for at least 20 minutes 3 or more days per week. Combinations of moderate- and vigorous- activity can be performed to satisfy these requirements…In addition, every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance a minimum of two days each week.” (Haskell et al, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2007.)

Summary of Specific Changes

The following updates, changes, and clarifications have been made from ACSM and AHA suggestions made in 1995:

  1. The recommended frequency for moderate-intensity activity is now specifically 5 days per week rather than the vague “most, preferably all days of the week.”
  2. Vigorous-intensity activity has been explicitly incorporated into the new recommendations. The new statement has been clarified to encourage activity in EITHER (or both) moderate-intensity or/and vigorous activity. One example of vigorous-intensity activity is running, an activity that causes rapid breathing,, increased heart rate, and in most cases, sweating.
  3. Moderate and vigorous activities both provide health benefits and activities can be combined according to comparable Metabolic Equivalents (mets) of activity totaling 450-750 MET minutes per week
  4. The new recommendation clearly states that the moderate- or vigorous-intensity exercise bouts are in addition to short, light-intensity daily living activities (i.e. walking, personal care, grocery shopping, housework etc. in anything less than 10 minute doses).
  5. Specific recommendations for muscle-strengthening activity have been incorporated: on two or more non-consecutive days a week, 8-10 full body, multiple-muscle group exercises should be selected and performed for 8-12 repetitions each, such that the targeted muscles are sufficiently challenged and fatigued by the end of each set of reps.
  6. Activity above the recommended minimum provides even greater health benefits (especially if you are specifically training for a sport or performance goal).
  7. The minimum length of shorter bouts of exercise that “count” toward the 30 minutes of accumulated moderate-intensity exercise per day has been specified as 10 minute segments.

More about Mets

One metabolic equivalent represents an adult’s energy expenditure per minute while sitting quietly. If that adult walks at 3 mph for 30 minutes on a flat hard surface, he would expend 3.3 mets (in other words, 3.3 times more energy than at rest) x 30 minutes = 99 met-minutes. If he jogs at 5 mph for 20 minutes on the same surface, the expenditure is closer to 8 mets x 20 minutes = 160 met-minutes. The moderate-intensity walking done 5 days a week would result in 5x99 or 495 met-minutes, while the vigorous-intensity jogging completed 3 days a week would result in 480 met-minutes. To determine combinations thereof, simply multiply mets times minutes and shoot for an accumulation of a minimum of 450-750 met-minutes per week.

Other examples of cross-training equivalents similar to what you might be including in your own workout programs follow. Using values for Metabolic Equivalents compiled from http://prevention.sph.sc.edu/tools/docs/documents_compendium.pdfwill allow you to compare your own moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise to be sure you are combining them to sufficiently provide health benefits.

SAMPLE HOME ACTIVITIES (only counting active times)

  • Sweeping floors 20 minutes (3.3 mets): 66 met-mins
  • Vacuuming 10 minutes (3.5 mets): 35 met-mins
  • Moving furniture, carrying boxes 1 hour (6 mets): 360 met-mins
  • Walking/chasing/playing vigorously with children 30 minutes (5 mets): 150 met-mins
  • Mowing lawn (non-power push mower) 30 minutes (6 mets): 180 met-mins


  • Golf, walking and carrying clubs 3 hours (4.5 mets): 630 met-mins
  • Yoga 20 minutes (2 mets): 40 met-mins
  • Backpacking (hiking uphill with pack 16-24 pounds) 2 hours (7 mets): 840 met-mins
  • Weight lifting 45 minutes (6 mets): 270 met-mins
  • Climbing hills with 42# load 30 minutes (9 mets): 270 met-mins
  • Jogging 6 mph (10 min. miles) 30 min. (10 mets): 300 met-mins
  • Biking 12 mph 45 minutes (8 mets): 360 met-mins
  • Step aerobics class - 10” step 1 hour (10 met): 600 met-mins
  • Mountain or rock climbing 90 min. (8 mets): 720 met-mins
  • Swimming laps, low effort 30 min. (7 mets): 210 met-mins.

The take home messages: clearly, if you are training for a 5K or marathon, climb, trek, upcoming ski season, or other active sport, your numbers are bound to be much higher than many of the suggestions or samples above. However, an eye-opening exercise to try would be to go through the compendium and find out for yourself how some moderate intensity activities can easily replace or substitute for higher intensity workouts (or vice versa) while providing similar benefits.

For example, if you are sidelined from running with a foot injury or hamstring strain, you might find that a combination of biking and swimming will provide equal met or calorie burning effect while your body heals. If you are pressed for time in a given week but are still able to fit in active play with your children, daily housework, and weekend gardening, you may find that you are still meeting the recommendations for moderate-intensity activity and overall health. It may be just enough to maintain your fitness level until you have time again to train as you have before. Your goal might then be to focus on adding several short strength training workouts (heavy gardening, helping a friend move, or performing calisthenics at the playground can all count) to be sure you are getting the recommended dose of exercise.


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